Actively Pursuing Your Muse: How to Work and Live Like a Writer Instead of Aspiring to Be One

Want to be a writer? Move beyond dreaming.

Do you want to be a writer – or do you write?

What’s the difference?

You know how powerful your word choice is. So think about it. Do you dream of becoming a writer, or are you currently, this very moment, working on a writing project that will help you reach a specific goal?

It is not enough to aspire to see your dreams become reality. You must act. You have to DO something if you want something to happen.

This is how to actively pursue your writing goals, one word at a time.

Break down your barriers to productivity

The most common reason writers do not write efficiently, or at all, is because of their inability to tune out distractions. This goes beyond “Facebook does not help you write.” You do not need to do in-depth research on a topic for your book right now, unless you have specifically blocked out this time in advance only for research directly related to your book.

There are other, less obvious reasons for not writing too: issues with confidence. Imposter syndrome. Dependence on excuses. For some people, mental health or physical health issues are actually huge factors that prevent even the most driven creatives from starting and completing writing projects.

Whatever your barriers are, only you can break them down and get back to writing. Solutions can range anywhere from using apps like Cold Turkey to block specific websites during work hours to meeting with a mental health professional to discuss mechanisms for dealing with everyday setbacks.

You can’t just wait around expecting things to change without taking steps to changing them yourself. It’s all on you. But everything changes once you not only figure out what it is that’s stopping you from writing, but actively begin applying solutions to keep those roadblocks from standing in your way.

Change the way you talk about your writing goals

Instead of saying, “I hope to be a writer someday,” focus on talking about what you’re currently working on – while you’re actually working on it.

“I’m currently writing posts for a blog I plan to launch at the end of the month.”

There is, first of all, a social accountability component to this. You’re much more likely to actually click away from Facebook, where you’ve posted all about your current project, and actually work on it, since you don’t want people to assume you’re all talk and no write. GUILT IS POWER.

Secondly, goals have to be specific. And actionable. SMART. “Be a writer someday” is not a goal. It’s a dream. Dreams are fantasies. Goals, when actions are applied consistently, can be achieved. You can and will launch that blog if you talk like someone who’s in the process of doing something instead of someone who is thinking about doing something.

Know the difference between motivation and inspiration

There will be times when you feel inspired to create, yet don’t have the motivation to write anything. This is because the two concepts are not synonymous. Inspiration is the feeling that you have an idea you want to pursue further, while motivation is the drive to actually sit down and pursue an idea.

Knowing the difference is a major key to making your way toward success as a writer. After years of writing, I know what kinds of things inspire me, and I know what to do when I have an idea but can’t start on it right away. I also know when throughout the day, week and month I tend to feel the most motivated to work on side projects. This helps me create my own personal workflow schedule that allows me to get things done when I’m ready to work, and take it easy when I’m not.

It’s a misconception that if you want to be a writer, you have to write every day. You only have to write consistently. If you know Fridays are your least busy days, and you usually feel highly motivated on these days, you can designate Friday as the one day of the week you write a blog post, or work on your novel, or whatever kind of writing it is you’re doing.

All that really matters is that you are writing when you say you are going to, no matter what.


If you do not write, then you are not a writer. Talking about all the things you’re going to write does not make you a writer. Gushing about how inspired you feel to start a new project does not guarantee that you are going to succeed in the fast-paced, unpredictable thrill ride that is the writing life.

Yes, there are legitimate excuses for writers who are struggling, especially if they are legitimate to you in your own mind. But you have two choices: you can either let these things continue to separate you from this thing you love to do, or you can take small steps to begin making your way back to it – even if it’s hard. Even when no one else seems to understand how important this writing thing is to you, in your life.

Creating goals and meeting milestones are very different things. The only way to meet a writing goal of any kind is to write. And whatever motivates you to get that writing done, whatever convinces you that acting on your inspiration is worth the time and effort, do it; use it; make it count.

This is the way of the writer: the actions you take build the foundation of your future as a professional creator. It’s not about what you hope will happen, but what will happen, if you stick with it long enough, if you work hard enough, if you earn this by actively deciding never to quit.

So, are you willing to work? Are you ready to make writing happen – for real?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

How to Earn a Career in Writing – Part 3

Work your butt off.

A single success is just an open door. It is not a free ride to happy town. Anything worth doing is tons of work… When that door opens, that is when you start working your patoot off. And when your patoot falls off, staple it back on until you work it off again.

– Ben Grelle, internet comedian, writer (Hustle Economy, p. 32)

I have successfully answered to the (loud, terrifying, unwanted) call of my 6 a.m. alarm for nine days in a row.

I do not particularly enjoy emerging from my pillow and blanket haven this early in the day. Currently, it is still dark out when my alarm goes off.

This morning, I was dreaming about impressing a former professor with cupcakes (#cookingforagradescarredmeforlife).

I’m doing squats daily. My butt is very confused and would prefer for me to move as little as possible for the next 72 hours.

I would have gladly returned to my warm and comfy sanctuary. But I didn’t.

People who say you have to wake up early to be successful are wrong. I don’t do it because it’s somehow magically going to get me a job or win me awards or something.

Nope. I do it so I can spend six uninterrupted hours every night watching Netflix.

Netflix is not work. I don’t generally talk about how many hours I spend per week streaming shows, because it makes me sound lazy.

Except I’m not. Because when I wake up at 6 a.m., I spend the first three hours of my day in preparation – making lists, reading, journaling, exercising (squaaaaats), caffeinating – not working. But working my way up to working.

And then, from nine to five, guess what I do? I work.

Sometimes I spend an hour after that on what some would call “passion projects,” but I prefer to call them, “things I’m going to launch at some point but still have no idea what exactly they are so not yet.”

The point is, I spend a solid eight hours working – meeting the reasonable demands of my clients, hunting for small projects to take on, keeping this blog on the radar, slowly (sloooooowly) still trying to finish novels from the past two Novembers.

Work. I work. Hard. And then I give my brain (and butt) a rest. Because, right now, I am very fortunate to be able to do that – leave some space in the schedule for myself.

Here’s the thing about work: no two people work in the exact same way. So what I’ve just told you might be interesting, but it’s probably not the way you prefer to do things. And that’s OK.

You might love sleeping in. Someone who works from home, as I do, has the luxury of doing that. You might be completely fine not starting your work until lunchtime and working late into the evening. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what works for YOU.

So far in this series we’ve talked about working for free and about finishing what you start, whether the work is good or bad. But now we have to talk about the work itself – or the process of working, rather. Because you have a zero percent chance of success as a writer if you do not work to earn what you want.

You have to work the way that works for you – and I mean REALLY works. If you can only find time to do the bulk of your writing on weekends, then the generic non-inclusive advice to take weekends off from working does not apply to you. As long as you are spending that time doing quality work, and you are proud of that work, then keep working like that. It’s no one’s place to say you can’t.

The more you work, the more likely you are to earn one success. And once you earn one success, you have a choice: let it go to your head and get lazy, or use the momentum to kick your work up a notch.

I could probably work more than 40 hours a week if I wanted to. I would make more money and publish more content. But that is not what is going to work for me right now. I spent the past 20 years in school and I deserve a few months of not having to constantly staple my butt back on, thank you very much. But this is not typical for me, and I don’t plan on letting squats alone kick me into shape for long. There will come a point when the work that I am doing now pays off in a very small way (slow and steady), and when that happens, I will have built up enough stamina to take off running again, stapler at the ready. Not now. But soon enough.

People don’t like figuring out for themselves what they need to do to make work work. I’m not completely sure why that is, but reality check: if you’re not working the way that works, you’re not going to want to keep doing it. Going back to last week – giving up happens when you’re not willing to follow through. Hard work ALWAYS pays off. Not always immediately, not always in the exact way you want. But your success is a path unlike anyone else’s. No one has succeeded in the way you will before. The more you work, the more efficiently you organize your work, the further down your own personal path to success you will go.

Here – these are all the resources you’ll need to get better at working. Work your butt off. Or if you’ve just literally worked your butt off, take a short breather, grab your stapler and get back to it. It’s your work. It’s your success you’re going after here. You have to make the conscious decision to go for it, to make the necessary sacrifices, to earn it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Never Miss Another Deadline – Tips for Staying Focused and Getting Ahead

Never submit something late again.

In the real world, deadlines are law. Turning something in late means it doesn’t get published, and you don’t get paid. Timeliness may not always be rewarded, but the consequences for not being able to keep up with deadlines are severe – especially if whether or not you get picked for a writing job depends on recommendations from people you have written for previously.

Working on deadline, and getting ahead, are learned habits. There’s no better time to start learning than right now.

Here are a few things you can do to stay focused while writing and get more work done ahead of time.

Go Cold Turkey

When I took a week-long vacation at the end of 2016, I did nothing but spend virtually every hour of every afternoon on Netflix, YouTube or Steam – which was fine, when I was on vacation. But I found it extremely difficult to climb out of that hole when the new year started and I had to get back to work.

The internet is unforgiving in many ways. Sometimes you need it to write, but you see one BuzzFeed article pop up and you’re doomed for the next hour and a half.

Enter Cold Turkey – a Mac desktop app and web browser extension that lets you choose specific websites to block while leaving others fully accessible. You choose the duration. You have no choice but to avoid the websites you’ve completely blocked yourself out of and do something else – something productive. At least, that’s what happened to me.

Download. Install. Block. Boom. I can’t go on Facebook, I can’t stop “just to watch one video” on YouTube. I can’t hit my 3 p.m. slump and just decide to call it quits for the day, diving into yet another Netflix binge.

When there’s nothing left to do but work, that’s what you’ll do. I didn’t think that would be the case – but it turns out that if it weren’t for my biggest online distractions, I could have most likely gotten twice as much work done last year. But I didn’t – because I had no idea how distracted I actually was.

If the internet isn’t your biggest distraction from writing, then you probably need to choose a different writing location, and/or consider writing by hand, or using Cold Turkey Writer, which, as you can probably guess, allows you to do nothing but stare at a screen and write.

Work in intervals

Everyone works differently. Some people prefer to work by time, using methods to “power work” for a certain amount of time, taking a break and repeating the process. Others work by project, focusing only on work from one client until it’s done before moving on to the next thing.

However you work, do so in intervals so you don’t find yourself working for hours straight without giving your brain a rest period.

I try to work for two hours in the morning, take a break to work out, work for two more hours, take a lunch break, draft a blog post, then work for two more hours, take a shorter break, and so on. Working without breaks is both unproductive and dangerous. The longer you work without stopping, the more you concentration and the quality of the work you are doing deteriorates.

However, taking productive breaks are also important. Don’t just scroll through Twitter for 15 minutes and then go straight back to what you were doing before. Grab a snack, throw in a load of laundry, run an errand. The time you spend working will produce much better results. You’ll most likely work faster and feel more energized and focused, too.

Trick your brain

It’s not easy, or even always practical, to decide you’re going to stop procrastinating. Not all procrastination is bad, and it’s more of a personality trait than a habit, which makes “quitting” arbitrary. For many people, it’s just who they are. Which is fine, until it starts interfering with your ability to get your work done well and/or on time.

Whether you write as a hobby or you’re a working professional, deadlines are a great motivator for getting quality work done efficiently. The less time you have to spend on good writing, the more good writing you’ll be able to do. But since waiting until the last minute can’t always be avoided, you can work around that … by changing an expected due date on your own schedule.

Never write down a real deadline. Instead, always mark it down in your calendar or planner three days earlier than the real deadline. (This way, if something is due on a Monday, you finish on Friday; if it’s due Friday, you finish on Tuesday.) You can literally trick your brain into believing that’s the real deadline, so that even if you do end up waiting until the last minute, you’ll still end up turning your work in early.

This is really hard for me – once I see a date, it for whatever reason lodges itself into my brain and it’s not easily forgotten. But I’m also a planner junkie, so if I see something is due on the 25th, I’m much more likely to finish it by the 25th. No excuses – you can train your brain to do a lot of things you don’t think you can do. This works. I promise.

How do you manage deadlines? What are some other tactics you’ve tried for staying ahead of schedule?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Top Tips to Make You a More Productive Writer in 2017

All the resources you need to maximize writing productivity this year.

Since I’m either sleeping, gaming or traveling as you’re reading this (NOT WORKING – YAY), I’ve gone ahead and rounded up a series of articles to help you maximize your writing productivity in 2017.

Whatever you might have struggled with productivity-wise this year, the resources below should be able to direct you toward strategies you can use to write more, better, happier. Let me know which topics are most helpful to you, so I can write more about them this year.

How to make more time for writing

How to Organize Your Writing Time for Optimal Productivity

How I Find Time to Write Every Day

Why It’s OK to Say, “I Just Don’t Have Time Right Now”

Time Management Tips for Writers

A Different Way to Think About Time Management

How to get more writing done in less time

5 Things Killing Your Writing Productivity

The Trick That Pushed Me to Write 26,000 Words in 3 Days

My Productivity Formula

Writing Productivity Tips: How to Write 5,000+ Words Per Day

How to Write Your Way Into a Flow State, Fast

How to create an optimal writing schedule

How to Structure Your Life to Make Room for Creativity

Productivity Tips for People Who Can Only Write at Night

This Is What a Full-Time Writer’s Schedule Looks Like

How to Train Yourself to Stick to Your Own Deadlines

What to do when you can’t write

A Writer’s Guide to Powering Through Discouragement

Here’s What to Do When You’re Struggling to Focus

Is Tech Hurting Your Writing Productivity?

You Don’t Need Motivation to Write – You Just Need Fewer Distractions

How to Minimize Writing Distractions

Motivation for writers of all disciplines

5 Things to Remember When Writing All the Time Starts Seeming Pointless

How to Turn Inspiration Into Motivation, and Motivation Into Productivity

4 YouTube Videos to Watch When You Desperately Need Writing Inspiration

If You’re Writing, You’re Not Wasting Your Time

4 TED Talks That Will Inspire You to Write Again

Start thinking about your writing goal(s) for the upcoming year. What’s it going to take to achieve them? Rest, recharge, and get ready to write more than you ever have before in the months to come. YOU. CAN. DO. THIS.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Yes, Giving 100% Is Enough

People who give 110% are doing it wrong.

For starters, yes, I am aware that to give 110%(+) is not a literal suggestion. However, if another person tells me I need to give 110% to anything I do, they’re going to have to listen to me give a verbal version of this rant, and that’s their fault, not mine.

At one point this year, I worked (briefly) with a client who asked me to give 110% to the work I completed for them. At first, I took it at its non-literal meaning: put in the effort, and maybe you’ll get a cool bonus for a job well done. Awesome. Except not awesome, because my client actually expected me to give more time and effort than I was capable of. Not because I was not willing to do the work, but because after six mornings in a row of waking up to 20 unread messages (you think I’m exaggerating …), I had to say no. No, I cannot give more than 100%. Because if I am to give 110%, I have to take time away from other things. And that is not something someone should have to do for even a paying job.

The second you start giving 110% to something, you give 10% less to something else. Because you are a human. You cannot give more than 100% to all the things in your life. Life, productivity, accomplishing things, surviving, it’s all about balance.

Sometimes you will not be able to give 100% to anything, because there are too many things, most of which are not in your control. Does that make you lazy? Apathetic? Inconsiderate? No. It makes you a person.

If there is anything the creatives of the universe need to hear right now, it is that they are people. Not superhumans. Not overachieving masterminds. People. You can be good at what you do and still need to take a break. You can have enough enthusiasm for your entire department and still need to go home and not think about work for 12 straight hours.

Giving 100% means you know your limits. You know exactly what needs to get done, you put in all the effort to get it done, and then you go home. You rest. You enjoy the rest of your day. Because life is not about just your job, or just your family, or just your personal projects. It is about everything. Everything demands 100% effort. And even 100% effort does not always seem possible.

100% is enough, because it means you’re giving it all you can give. No one should ever expect you to give up more than you are capable of. I love my job as an editor. But when I’ve worked all my hours for the week, I stop working. I have to move on to something else. Not because I wouldn’t love to give more time to a job I love – but because it is not my only job. I have a dozen other responsibilities crying for my attention. I have learned to prioritize. To put in the effort, and then stop when it’s time to stop. You must learn that, too. You must learn that giving 100% will get you everywhere you need to be. Burning yourself out, because you think it will get you ahead – it’s not worth it. Trust me. You’re going to crumble. And it’s going to hurt. And you’re going to have to learn the hard way not to push yourself so dang hard.

Give 100%. To your writing; your loved ones; to yourself. Just enough to get you where you deserve to be, but not enough to leave you off balance, exhausted and regretting all your destructive life choices. Okay? Yes. You’re going to be okay.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.